Sixth Anniversary of Teaching & Technology

Yesterday marked the 6th anniversary of this blog. When I first started the blog, it was supposed to be a documentation of my journey of becoming a teacher, as I had just decided to go back and get my master’s degree. Therefore, I set the blog up as a simple self-hosted blog on my portfolio website.

Six year’s later, Teaching & Technology has its own domain and is less about my personal journey towards the education field and more about education and education technology. I am happy with the direction and momentum of this blog. I do wish I had more time to write, but life happens.

Let’s break down some fast facts and stats:

 

Now, a list for some of my personal favorite posts (in no particular order):

Oh there are tons more, but it’s safe to say, if it looks like I took a lot of time to investigate something and have several citations…I enjoyed writing the post.

So, Happy Sixth Birthday to Teaching & Technology! Let me know what your favorite posts are in the comments.

TEDEd: A Brief History of Plural Word…s.

From TEDEd:

All it takes is a simple S to make most English words plural. But it hasn’t always worked that way (and there are, of course, exceptions). John McWhorter looks back to the good old days when English was newly split from German — and books, names and eggs were beek, namen and eggru!

Watch the lesson on TEDEd.com.

(New Edition) Master the Basics: English

I’m apparently behind on my publication of new materials, despite the inordinate amount of time I spend in bookstores. I have rather lame excuse for my inattention to this new edition…I was reading other books…for my Master’s degree.

Nevertheless, I am now aware that there is in fact a third edition to Master the Basics: English.  If by some chance, I am not the last person to be aware of this fact, I shall spread the word.

I wrote a blog post for the second edition of Master the Basics: English in December of 2012.  The third edition was published in September of 2013.

The third edition did not go through a major rewrite.  In fact,  it is nearly identical to the second edition.  There is, however, one new section: “Common Forms to Avoid”. This section goes through pronunciation and each of the parts of speech with advice on common errors that ESL/ELL students make.  This is very helpful for those students to curb major problem areas.  It is also helpful for native speakers to help them understand common errors and be ready to correct (and explain) those errors.

There is also a brand new yellow cover.  This now standardizes the Master the Basics covers and the 501 Verbs books.  They still only have Master the Basics for English, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and English for Spanish Speakers.

The third edition also boasts it is fully recyclable and printed in the USA.

For more information on Master the Basics: English and other language guides by Barron’s, visit www.barronseduc.com.

Podcast Review: English Pronunciation Pod

One of my main complaints from my ESL/ELL students is that people cannot understand them when they speak. Grammar books and bilingual dictionaries don’t help them when they want to converse with native speakers or simply go about their lives in the United States.

I sympathize with my students greatly and empathized with them slightly. Too many high school and college Spanish courses have taught me that I sound like a dummy when I speak to my native-speaking professor.

Thus, I searched to find materials that will actually help them reduce their accent in a meaningful way.  There are too many pronunciation tools out there that have students repeat words and sounds without telling them how to make those sounds.  A student can hear “dog” over and over, but if they don’t know to drop their jaw to produce the vowel sound, it will always be said with an accent (discounting children…their brains are wired for language differently than adults).

Enter in Charles Becker and his podcast, English Pronunciation Pod.  I found this podcast several years ago and have used it over and over again with numerous students.  They love it.  They love it because it tells them how to speak English, including: what they are probably doing wrong, what “wrong” sounds like, and common mistakes for some languages.  Students have found his pronunciation easy to understand and like listening to him.  Of course, some of the really novice students have too much of a difficulty understanding him so this podcast is best used with students who know English but want to improve their pronunciation.

I really like that this podcast has transcripts on its website for students to follow along.  However, he could have used a better editor…there are some glaring problems that Microsoft Word can fix quite easily and quickly.  I like to copy and paste the web transcript into a Word document, fix the errors (save it so I only have to do it once!), and print it off for my students to use while they listen to the podcast.  This allows them to read and hear at the same time.  Unfortunately, the transcript isn’t a word for word transcription.  It seems to be the podcast in visual form.  It leaves out some digressions.  It does confuse my students at first, but then they get used to his format and appreciate the succinctness of the transcript for future reference.

Podcasts can be downloaded via iTunes to an iPad or iPhone.  I have them all downloaded to my iPad.  However, it is also possible to listen to podcasts on the web.  You can listen to the podcasts on the archive page or the transcript page.

The most unfortunate thing about this podcast is that it is no longer being updated.  I do not know why.  Awhile ago I emailed Charles Becker telling him I used this podcast frequently and would love more podcasts.  He did reply back indicating he would publish more podcasts.  However, only a couple podcasts were published in 2012.  Most of the podcasts were published in 2008-2011.

You can also purchase his “full pronunciation course” (Best Accent Training MP3s) that you hear an advertisement for at the end of every podcast (I usually stop the podcast before that…my students understand and appreciate it).  I’ve looked into it before.  It costs $75 and consists of most of the same material that is presented in the podcast.  Thus, I have not purchased it.  Let me know if you have purchased it and find it to be vastly different from the podcasts!

Overall: I love this podcast.  I have learned more about my own language while listening to this podcast.  It has helped me become a better teacher and has helped my ESL/ELL students reduce their accent and sound more like an American.

The History of English…in 10 minutes

The Open University has brought us the History of English…in 10 Minutes.  It’s educational, concise, and entertaining.  What more could you ask for?

There are originally 10 videos and the 11th video is all 10 of them combined.  Thus, I’ve only embedded the 11th video.  If you are interested in a single chapter video, you can find it individually on YouTube, The Open University’s website and on iTunes U (with transcripts).

Grammar Lesson: The Prefix “homo-“

It’s time for a quick grammar lesson with a side of a “politically correct” English lesson.

You can thank the Nomen Global Language Center and the firing of blogger Tim Torkildson for writing a post about…homophones.

downloadYes, a global language center who focuses on teaching English as a Second Language (or third, fourth, etc.) was worried that a blog post explaining homophones “creat[ed] the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda.”

According to Torkildson, the owner of the Nomen Center, Clarke Woodger, complained that “now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality.” 

Woodger, of course, cited none of this officially.   Blogger Paul Rolly noted that Nomen catered to foreign students seeking admission into United States colleges and universities; however, “Woodger says his school has taught 6,500 students from 58 countries during the past 15 years. Most of them, he says, are at basic levels of English and are not ready for the more complicated concepts such as homophones.”

If a foreign student cannot understand the difference between “be” and “bee”, than that student is not ready to attend a US college or university.

However, this blog post is not about the firing of Torkildson.  It is about the prefix “homo-“.

DEFINITION: Same.             EXAMPLES:

  • homophone (same sound/pronunciation, different spelling)
  • homograph (same spelling, different sound/pronunciation or meaning)
  • homonym (same spelling and same sound, different meaning)
  • homogenize (to change something so all parts become the same)
  • homograft (a skin graft from the same person)
  • homopaternal (same father)
  • homoplasmy (same mutation)

 

What do these definitions have in common?  The concept of “SAME”.  NOT sex.  The prefix “homo-” only refers to sexual concepts when used with a base word that is a sexual concept.   Thus, homosexuality.

Lastly: note the etymology of words and the power of language.  Homophobia actually means “to fear sameness”.  It has nothing to do with sex.

 

Owed to a Spell Chequer

I halve a spelling chequer

It came with my pea sea

It plane lee marques four my revue

Miss steaks aye ken knot sea

Eye ran this poem threw it

Your sure reel glad two no

It’s vary polished in it’s weigh

My chequer tolled me sew

A chequer is a bless sing

It freeze yew lodes of thyme

It helps me awl stiles two reed

And aides mi when aye rime

To rite with care is quite a feet

Of witch won should be proud

And wee mussed dew the best wee can

Sew flaws are knot aloud

And now bee cause my spelling

Is checked with such grate flare

Their are know faults with in my cite

Of nun eye am a wear

Each frays come posed up on my screen

Eye trussed to be a joule

The chequer poured o’er every word

To cheque sum spelling rule

That’s why aye brake in two averse

My righting wants too pleas

Sow now ewe sea wye aye dew prays

Such soft wear for pea seas

 

Author: Joe Tenn, faculty member at Sonoma State University, adapted from Eric Bear Albrecht (with apologies to Percy Dovetonsils.

Flocabulary: Educational Hip-Hop

Getting students to writing poetry in class is torturous.  Most students don’t seem like to poetry…except for the fact that frequently it is shorter than prose.

But song lyrics!  Students LOVE music.  I can’t seem to get them to get those ear buds out of their ears.  Poetry and song lyrics are rather similar in terms of objectives teachers seek to have students learn and practice, but the latter is a much more desirable medium.

Flocabuary is a website that “presents academic content in a highly-engaging, contemporary format.”  It has hip hop songs about language arts, vocabulary, social studies, science, and math.  Videos are tailored for students of all grades, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  All videos come with downloadable PDFs of the song lyrics.  Lyrics also appear on the video website page (no downloading required).

Want to ask students challenging questions without spending hours of your own time watching and re-watching the video to write them?  Flocabulary already has several questions written for class discussion.  Content great for classrooms because it is aligned with the Common Core, especially with English/Language Arts and math.

It is a paid service, for the most part.  There are pricing plans for classrooms, schools, districts, home, after school, and virtual school.  Some content is available for purchase on CDs and DVDs.  However, there are a few videos available for free.  There is also a free trial available for 14 days.

Bonus: the website has a “classroom view” which turns off ads and distracting navigation menus.

I used the Pit and the Pendulum rap as a lead-in for students to write song lyrics about several of the Edgar Allan Poe stories we had been reading.  I was looking for a way for students to utilize several literary terms in a way that was more appealing than poetry.  It was definitely a hit!  Students took to the challenge by making spoofs of popular songs, adding more literary terms and length than I required, and surprising me with their creativity.

“Indoctrination in Common Core ELA textbooks”

A few weeks ago I saw a video on Facebook titled “Indoctrination in Common Core ELA textbooks”.  It was posted on June 15 by Aliēnātus: the truth is out there.  The goal was to open people’s minds to what was in the Common Core curriculum and that the curriculum is horrible because it “indoctrinates” students starting in the 1st grade.  According to the commentators in the video, the book(s) shown have been approved by the state of Utah.

I was outraged, but not by the curriculum, rather by the ignorance of the commentators in the video and by the comments on the video.  It still outrages me, thus, I have decided to embedded the video and share my thoughts.

My Issues with Statements Made in This Video

The commentators have no authority on the subject matter.  The commentators who are evaluating the curriculum have no stated background in teaching, curriculum planning/design, or education.  One commentator claims he has a 6-year-old (1st grader).  This does NOT make him an expert on what is taught or should be taught but isn’t being taught in the 1st grade.  It is apparent that he has not seen the entire K-12 system as a whole, its successes and its failures, from the standpoint of an educator.  He is a parent.  He may be an expert on the interests of his child, but that does not translate into the expertise of the educational goals for that grade.

The commentators’ narrow focus on the title, “Literature and Writing” ignores the benefits of working with content in different contexts.  Since the commentators are not well-versed in educational issues, they do not understand that one of the major problems of the American school system is that we pulled apart our content and put each one into different boxes called grade level and subject matter from which we were told to never deviate into another subject or grade level.  In other words, the 1st grade English teacher taught 1st grade English, which included reading, spelling, writing, and literature.  Students were not taught reading in 2nd grade science class because “that’s the 1st grade English teacher’s job.”  We now know this chunking to be very problematic and the term “cross-curricular” has entered the educational vocabulary.  Encouraging students to write about advocacy in a “literature and writing” class highlights that you don’t just write papers in an English class and talk about society in social studies, you can mix them!

It’s also important to note that writing is not just about the motor skills of writing letters and sentence structure.  Why should we waste students’ precious time writing about insignificant things like, “The sky is blue.  I like puppies,” when they are capable of so much more?  Many students have already grasped these basic verbal concepts by the 1st grade, thus, we are wasting their time by re-teaching the same concept with only adding the motor skill of writing.  We end up hindering the grow of their mental skills; and when their brain isn’t stimulated, students get bored, which can directly lead to learning, “nothing” all day and hating school.

The commentators project their adult understanding and definition of “advocacy” and cannot fathom that a 6-year-old can advocate for anything.  The concept of “advocacy” can be complicated or boiled down to a very simple basic element: standing up for what you think is right.  Isn’t that the exact same message behind the anti-bullying campaigns in elementary schools right now?  The commentators laugh and one says sarcastically, “Yeah, my six-year-old does that all the time.  She looks at what is wrong in the world and says how do I organize my people and my community to fix these social problems?”  By six years old, kids are able to identify things that are right and wrong as well as come up with ideas on how to change the status quo.  Why tell a six-year-old, “no, you’re only six, you have nothing positive to contribute to your family/house, neighborhood, your school, or your city”?  We’re not talking about six-year-olds organizing and starting a national revolution, but they can see that there are people who are starving and that creating a community garden and donating the food to a local food bank can help.  It’s also fathomable that 1st graders could organize a school-wide blanket drive to donate blankets to the American Red Cross for the upcoming winter.

The commentators ignore the intended audience of the curriculum guidebook that they mock.  The guidebook is written for a college-educated educator.  The voice and style of the paragraphs is written such that it will not be an insult to the intelligence of an elementary school teacher.  The educator is able to translate the broad concept of “call to action” into simpler words that each individual student will understand.  The concept of “call to action” really isn’t difficult to understand at all.  A six-year old definitely understands, “the sentence that says ‘I want you to clean your room.’ is a call to action because ‘clean’ is a verb, and a verb is an action, right?”  Why are we insulting the intelligence of six-year-olds?  If they are capable of understanding the concept, willing to learn it, and desiring more out of their education, then we should be teaching them.  It is the role of an educated, effective teacher to translate concepts from complex to simple.  Teacher guidebooks are written for the teacher, not the student.

The commentators have ignored the basic principles of persuasion: logos, ethos, and pathos.  Logos ethos, and pathos are Greek words that used to describe the three types of appeal that are used to convince people in an argument.  They are essentially logical appeal, credibility appeal, and emotional appeal.  These are very complex subjects that are repeatedly studied throughout middle school, high school, and college.  However, the commentators do not understand that the fundamental understanding of these complex concepts must begin early.  Since the commentators do not seem to have an education background, they have not experienced the problems that occur later when this ground work is not laid.  An effective elementary teacher is able to teach a very basic understanding of these concepts.

The commentators have ignored the value of recognizing how someone is manipulating you in favor of focusing on the fact that we are equipping 1st graders with tools to manipulate.  A six-year-old has already experienced manipulation using all three types of appeal: in video and/or print advertisements, in overhearing an argument between their parents or other adults, or by engaging in an argument themselves.  It is imperative that students begin to understand how peer pressure works (usually a combination of all three, but typically lots of logical and emotional appeal) and how to avoid failing prey to it.

The commentators take issue with the example of arguing with their parents.  My gut instinct is that the reason parents were chosen is that they were looking for an authority figure that a child may feel comfortable arguing with, and it’s pretty safe to assume that each child has at least one parent (or guardian).  But I think the bigger problem is if you are worried that we are teaching six-year-olds how to argue back to their parents instead of simply obeying and doing as their told without incident…perhaps you need to re-evaluate your parenting style.  I mean..if you can be outsmarted or outargued by a six-year-old…then you probably have not taught your kids WHY you want them to do something, which is just as important as the WHAT.  Why don’t we want to equip our children as early as we can with the weapon of words instead of the weapon of fists?  Why do we want to enforce blind obedience, but then wonder why kids aren’t thinking for themselves?

The commentators fall victim to the exact “problems” they criticize in the teacher’s guidebook.  The commentators emphasize and pause on certain words to elicit an emotional response from the viewer.  They are trying to convince the viewers that this guidebook is indoctrinating students by using their “authority” as a parent of a six year old, emphasizing emotional words, and trying to insert sarcastic commentary as part of their emotional appeal.  The end goal of this video was not to objectively review the Common Core approved, curriculum guidebook for 1st grade in the state of Utah, but it was to stir up emotions and fuel rage-filled comments.